Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Birding in Chiriqui province

This is the first of several posts about our recent four day incursion to the Chiriqui province, western Panama, from march 12th to march 15th. Actually, the trip started on march 11th when we drove to Penonome in Cocle province just to avoid the 6-hours long drive in one step. We spent most of the day at the outskirts of town, at the finca. Despite the heat, there were several birds around taking advantage of the fruiting trees and the flowers. The most common migrant were the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, eating on an "indio desnudo" tree, accompanied by some flycatchers (including Lesser Elaenia). A Garden Emerald showed up briefly and a group of three Roadside Hawks were vocalizing and chasing each other all over the place. They stayed in the area for almost an hour. It was getting late and, with the vanishing sun, we started to hear some nocturnal creatures in the form of Pauraques and a Rufous Nightjar. We left the finca and went to our home in town under the nasal calls of Common Nighthawks. Once in the neighborhood, we heard, and actually saw, a Lesser Nighthawk at our neighbor's backyard. It was very nice to start the trip this way, considering that three of these four nocturnal species were first year-birds for me. Very early the next morning, we started our journey to the Chiriqui province, with few stops along the way. It was supposed that we would meet a group of friends in the night for a birding weekend, so we headed all the way to the frontier town of Paso Canoas, and then 34 km to the south, to Puerto Armuelles. Puerto Armuelles is the most important town in the Burica peninsula and once was very important because of its banana plantations. Gloriela spent many summers in this town, since it is her mother's hometown. We reached the town and had lunch under a suffocating heat, so we decided to drive along the road, passing the town and the Petroterminales Panama property, stopping after 14 km from the rear gate in a grill where we enjoyed the sand and the marine breeze of the coast. The crystalline blue waters (and the heat) invited us to have a dip. After an hour, or so, we decided to head back, stopping for a flock of Crimson-fronted Parakeets (new for the year) and for Riverside Wrens very close to the rear gate of the Petroterminales. They were calling incessantly no matter the heat, and were easily spotted through the roadside vegetation. We had dinner in David city (capital of the Chiriqui province) and drove the road towards the picturesque town of Boquete, at 1050 meters above sea level, reaching it at night. Once there, we walked around the central plaza and waited for Osvaldo Quintero, Osvaldo Quintero Jr and Rafael Luck who went out from Panama City in hours of the evening. Once gathered, we accompanied them in their dinner at a local restaurant. Soon Milagros Sánchez and Olmedo Miró (our host in Boquete) joined us at the restaurant and we started to discuss our plans for the next day. Our main target was the Three-wattled Bellbird, a spectacular cotinga that I only have seen once more than 12 years ago close to this town (in Alto Chiquero). The discussion extended well into the night at Olmedo's lovely house, at the shores of the Caldera river. We all slept with high expectations for the following day.

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